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Sociolingüística internacional

The draft of measures to improve attitudes towards the Galician language and the extension of its use, by the Research team of the Seminar of Sociolinguistics of the Real Academia Galega



Groups were made up of Galician speakers and Spanish speakers in each of the three types of place of residence (countryside, villages and cities) and two for each place of residence, plus a bilingual pilot-group. Due to the heterogeneity of urban linguistic usage in Galicia, we considered it necessary to establish a typology of Galician towns and cities according to the dominant language. Through an analysis of correlations which determined the association between Galician cities and their linguistic usage we then proceeded to choose the cities where the discussion groups would take place, i.e. Santiago de Compostela, Ourense, Vigo and A Coruña, while Pontevedra, Lugo and Ferrol were excluded. The other discussion groups (villages and countryside) took place in Baiona (Pontevedra) and Maceda (Ourense) respectively

3. Results

The first round of analysis of results from the matched-guise tests aimed at determining which variables have an influence on the attitudinal assessments of Galician young people. For this we used a multivariable technique (general linear model of repeated measurements). We deduced from the results that young Galicians show rather homogeneous attitudes towards those speaking in matched linguistic varieties: their assessments were not influenced by their place of residence, or by their gender, mother tongue or usual language.

By means of this analysis we obtained thirteen significant contrasts. Eight were determined by the presence or absence of Galician accent in the matched voices. Young people perceived the voice without Galician accent as more clever, attractive, educated, innovative, with leadership skills, practical, interested in making progress and self-confident.

Another variable which influenced the assessments of the young people was the gender of the speaker interacting with accent, such that they assessed the female voices more negatively, less attractive, less clever and with fewer leadership skills when they had a Galician accent.

It is worth noting the lack of importance of the variable ‘language’ in the attitude assessments of the subjects, whether in isolation or interacting with other variables. The results given by the cluster technique confirmed that the language used (i.e. Galician or Spanish) has less influence thane either Galician accent or the gender of the matched voice in the social categorisation of the subjects. For the youngsters, the combination of variables which most determined the social categorisation was female gender combined with a "matched" accent (i.e. traditional Galician and Spanish with such an accent).

Once the variables which influence on the attitude assessment of young Galicians were determined, we set about establishing speaker characteristics constituting the dimensions against which the subjects categorised the speakers, by taking into account studies using the same technique (Bradac, 1990; Edwards, 1999; Fasold, 1984; Giles and Coupland, 1991)

Through the Analysis of Individual Differences (INDSCAL) we noted that males speaking with no Galician accent were accorded higher scores in the status dimension (i.e leadership, interest in making progress or self-confidence) and lower scores in the solidarity dimension (i.e. physical attractiveness, funny, sense of humour and friendly). Noneless, where females spoke with no Galician accent, it was pride which determines the social success dimension but in a markedly pejorative way.

The varieties with a Galician accent were positively rated on characteristics belonging to the solidarity dimension and associated with personal integrity such as friendly or generous, or on the empathy dimension such as funny or with sense of humour, altogether related to aspects of status in terms of traditional values (i.e. hard working).In addition, the Galician-accented varieties were negatively correlated with characteristics on the status dimension such as leadership skills, physical attractiveness, intelligence, culture and pride. In contrast with what was found with the previously mentioned dimension, when the voice was that of a female speaking in varieties with a Galician accent, the most relevant characteristic was loyalty, on the solidarity dimension and was associated to traditional values, especially when coupled with the hard working characteristic. Least relevant was physical attractiveness.

As for qualitative analysis (in-depth interviews and discussion groups) we found some differences as compared to the results of other studies exploring the same situation but using other methodological tools to gather and analyse the data, as for example the Sociolinguistic Map of Galicia (Seminar of Sociolinguistics, 1994, 1995, 1996).

In the in-depth interviews, the issues related with identity (i.e. being Galician) were defined by the participants in subjective terms such that language is not the object of consensus in the definition of Galician identity among the younger generation. The subjects considered that speaking Galician is a necessary requirement for being considered as Galician but varying with the usual language of the interviewee, i.e. the Galician speakers, more than those speaking Spanish, that a Galician is someone who speaks Galician. Furthermore some Spanish speakers were more reluctant to give relevance to language as a marker of group identification or even to accept any kind of ethnic classification because it is perceived as potentially excluding.

To define oneself as Galician outside Galicia is not positive, and moreover to live outside Galicia does not seem to awaken a feeling among the young a feeling which favours greater attachment to Galicia and the Galician language, but rather the contrary.

Shift in the usual language is negatively considered, with the particularity that those individuals who shifted from Galician to Spanish are usually generously assessed, and their behaviour is viewed as the result of ignorance while those who shifted from Spanish to Galician are assessed with intransigence, their attitude being considered as ridiculous, pretentious and the result of a nationalist ideology. The interviewees who are new speakers of Galician tell stories of exclusion and marginalization on linguistic grounds. Those who changed their accent towards more traditional phonology are also worse assessed than those having adopted phonological features closer to Spanish.

The knowledge members of the groups had of celebrities in the past is limited to writers, showing a predisposition to yield to cultural Spanish identity markers (represented by celebrities).

The informants associated the dissemination of the written norm with an oral standard negatively characterized considered to be imposed. The majority place individual freedom before adoption of a standard language, (3) so in fact indicating a certain scepticism towards the norm. Furthermore, and in rather contradictory fashion, non-normative orthographic options were also negatively rated. The criteria determining linguistic authenticity were based upon such factors as naturalness, spontaneity, convenience, the rural world and traditional customs.

Linguistic convergence was a demand made by many Spanish speakers and a concession Galician speakers both understood and justified when it occurs in the direction of Spanish. Convergence towards Galician had a kinship meaning. Broadly speaking, in convergence on Spanish the status dimension was highly relevant while for convergence on Galician, the main dimension was that of solidarity. There was nevertheless a tendency in some Galician-speaking interviewees, for whom language was the corner stone of personal identity, to be very critical towards the lack of convergence on Galician.

Regarding the usefulness of the language, Galician wass not perceived as having social profitability outside the social group of reference, except in some university circles and in public administration. Related to this, the informants considered that Galicians have to speak both languages, and their articulation of this systematically confused two dimensions: competence and use, usually giving more relevance to competence which is the dimension that accepts an asymetrical situation. Among Galician speakers, it was considered that the Galician language deserves special attention on the part of society and agents devoted to the process of normalisation.

The main role of Galician in the education system was also focused on the competence dimension, since for many young Galicians the school should not be used as a tool for identity issues, i.e. there is no reason school should promote the use of Galician.

Furthermore, the usual language of the informants seems to determine the general attitudes towards the topics discussed during the interview and to constitute a continuum from negative to very positive attitudes , arranged in the following order: urban Spanish speakers or inhabitants of villages, rural Galician speakers and urban new speakers of Galician.

From the analysis of the discussion groups, we can conclude that the production and reproduction of representations of the current situation of the Galician language is conditioned by the social group of reference to which the participants belong. The creation of settings where the subjects share characteristics as the usual language and the place of residence (especially the latter) strengthens the feelings of belonging to the reference group and favours the articulation of notions associated with the common sense abilities relevant for the group.

The study revealed the existence of an attitude continuum that, in its negative side includes attitudes of rejection linked to the lack of identification with identity markers related to the language, and in its positive side includes attitudes linked with its use as an external feature of symbolic adhesion to the cultural Galician identity. This two poles of the continuum coincided with the social representations of two minority groups of young people. The first one was made up of individuals living in cities, monolingual Spanish speakers, with little active competence in Galician. In this group the relations between the two languages were perceived as conflictive and progress in the extension of the social use of Galician was considered to be a threat for Spanish. The second group was made up of monolingual Galician speakers living in cities who, in some moment of their lives, decided to use Galician as they considered the language a core issue of the Galician collective identity. The majority of the young people who took part in this study were situated on the continuum between these two poles.

In the Spanish-speaking groups we found some factors that were important obstacles to the extension of the social use of Galician: the habit of using Spanish in all relevant domains of interaction, the perception of an environment mostly made up of Spanish-speaking people, the negative assessment of the usefulness of speaking Galician in most social domains, and the existence of prejudices based on the persistence of traditional stereotypes (rude, stupid) and the arising of new stereotypes (nationalist, snob). Within the work domain, the use of Galician was usually linked to low prestige employment or with the education and administration spheres, constituting therefore a factor influencing the low assessment of the usefulness of the use of Galician as usual language.

The perception of a greater concern in other autonomous regions towards their languages awakes ambivalent feelings, mixing culpability for not doing enough for the Galician language and the rejection of these models on the basis of a supposed greater tolerance among Galician people.

There is a dominant theme voiced about the situation of Galician in the education system which can be defined as that of "multilingualism" by expressing positive assessments towards the learning of different languages. Noneless, the debate is usually limited to the question of linguistic competence and avoids the question of linguistic use.

Responsibility for the maintenance of Galician is delegated to supra-individual institutions thus avoiding possible contradiction caused by the inconsistence between the expressed attitudes and individual behaviour.

Broadly speaking, we found in the Galician-speaking groups an important commitment to the use of Galician and a wish to extend it in all domains of social life. There are differences worth noting in the representations of the situation among urban new speakers of Galician (the latter evincing the worse assessments of the current linguistic situation) and the rural speakers who have Galician as a first language.

The Galician speakers living or born in the countryside and who still keep up close links with it assess the overall situation of Galician and the improvement of its social prestige in a much more positive way, due to the presence of Galician in the mass-media and public administration.

The comparison of this negative situation with that of other regions having their own language results in a feeling of inferiority and articulation of self-blame which seeks to explain the situation by means of supposed anthropological features of the Galician ethnolinguistic community (lack of proudness, absence of leaders...).

In the Galician-speaking group made up of people with Galician as first language we found elements that can influence the shift of the usual language towards Spanish. To the extent that members of this group include in their discourse the values of the committed speakers, this can set up procedures to preclude shift to Spanish.

4. Proposals for action

Based on the conclusions of this research on linguistic attitudes in Galicia, the Seminar of Sociolinguistics of the Real Academia Galega proposes a series of recommendations and proposals for action. It is obvious that the interest of this study lies in making a diagnosis taking as its point of departures the described lack of suitability. The measures to be adopted should therefore follow this direction.

The measures of action should be based on the different types of factors determining in every social group the reluctance towards a greater use of Galician as usual language. The main guidelines that should guide these measures are listed below.

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